President Obama has named a Faith Advisory Council that will advise the new Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. There will be 25 members on the Council, appointed to one-year terms.
Here’s the list, a list that includes popular Baptist blogger Melissa Rogers of Wake Forest University:
Judith N. Vredenburgh, President and Chief Executive Officer, Big Brothers / Big Sisters of AmericaPhiladelphia, PA
Rabbi David N. Saperstein, Director & Counsel, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and noted church/state expertWashington, DC
Dr. Frank S. Page, President emeritus, Southern Baptist ConventionTaylors, SC
Father Larry J. Snyder, President, Catholic Charities USAAlexandria, VA
Rev. Otis Moss, Jr., Pastor emeritus, Olivet Institutional Baptist ChurchCleveland, OH
Eboo S. Patel, Founder & Executive Director, Interfaith Youth CorpsChicago, IL
Fred Davie, President, Public / Private Ventures, a secular nonprofit intermediary New York, NY
Dr. William J. Shaw, President, National Baptist Convention, USAPhiladelphia, PA
Melissa Rogers, Director, Wake Forest School of Divinity Center for Religion and Public Affairs and expert on church/state issuesWinston-Salem, NC
Pastor Joel C. Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland, a Church DistributedLakeland, FL
Dr. Arturo Chavez, Ph.D., President & CEO, Mexican American Cultural CenterSan Antonio, TX
Rev. Jim Wallis, President & Executive Director, SojournersWashington, DC
Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie, Presiding Bishop, 13th Episcopal District, African Methodist Episcopal ChurchKnoxville, TN
Diane Baillargeon, President & CEO, Seedco, a secular national operating intermediaryNew York, NY
Richard Stearns, President, World VisionBellevue, WA
Dan Gilgoff of U.S. News & World Report has a few thoughts on the Council:
A few of these folks stand out, for various reasons:
World Vision president Richard Stearns recently said that if Obama keeps his campaign pledge to undo President Bush’s policy that allows faith-based groups to hire only likeminded believers with federal funds, World Vision would back out of faith-based initiatives. It’s still unclear exactly how Obama will handle the hiring question, but it would be odd for Stearns to agree to join a White House advisory committee for a program that his organization will walk away from.
Wake Forest’s Melissa Rogers is the coauthor of a recent Brookings Institution report that recommends the Obama administration tighten rules preventing federal funds going to explicitly religious activities and that encourages the administration to study the hiring question more before making a final decision about it.
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s David Saperstein was an opponent of Bush’s faith-based initiatives office but has been working with the Obama team as it launches its own version.
These three individuals have sharply different views on faith-based initiatives, making it difficult to puzzle out how the White House will handle the sensitive hiring question. Stay tuned.
The Baptist Joint Committee has put out a press release on this subject. Here’s a snippet from that:
The panel, which is not to exceed 25 members, is composed of a diverse group of religious and secular leaders with experience in social services, including former Baptist Joint Committee General Counsel Melissa Rogers, BJC Board Member William Shaw and Rabbi David Saperstein, a fellow co-chair of religious liberty coalitions.
“This group represents a good example of the president’s desire to hear many points of view,” said J. Brent Walker, executive director of the BJC. “I am especially glad Melissa Rogers and others will be at the table to offer a strong defense of religious liberty and church-state separation.”
Walker applauded Obama’s focus on developing ways to cooperate with organizations helping those in need and doing it the right way. “Partnerships between government and faith-based organizations are a given,” Walker said. “However, the rules of cooperation must be carefully crafted to protect religious liberty. I urge the president to ban religious hiring discrimination in government-funded programs. The BJC will continue to press for it.”
All religious liberty-lovin’ Baptists should be comforted to see one of our church-state experts, Melissa Rogers, on this new Advisory Council!